It didn’t take Zack Kozlik long to make his mark with the Chadron State College football team.
The junior college transfer who first had contact with the Eagles in July claimed the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference’s first Special Teams Player of the Week Award for the 2017 football season after averaging 45 yards on seven punts Saturday during the Eagles’ 25-19 victory over Fort Lewis in Durango, Colo.
A native of the San Diego area, Kozlik recently said he surmised his college football career was over until he received an e-mail in July from CSC special teams coordinator Craig Jersild.
“We needed a punter. That was our No. 1 priority after spring ball,” said Jersild. “I can’t remember how I knew about him, but I keep quite a long list of players who might help us. I sent him an e-mail and he responded, had good grades and decided to join us.”
Kozlik said he started punting as a sophomore at Coronado High School in the San Diego area. He had a fantastic season as a junior in 2012, ranking high nationally in MaxPreps statistics. He also was a running back and defensive end that season.
However, Kozlik sustained a high ankle sprain as a senior, limited his playing time and he punted only in the final game of the season.
He then attended Southwestern College at Chula Vista, Calif., and was the team’s punter as a freshman in 2014, when the Jaguars went 10-1. He averaged 37 yards and 19 of his 48 punts were downed inside the 20-yard line.
Things didn’t go as well his sophomore season. While he averaged 39.2 yards, he had to share the duties and punted only 13 times during the 4-6 campaign.
With no scholarship offers following the season, Kozlik didn’t go to college last year. But after Jersild made contact with him in July, he grabbed a football and began practicing again, using both his former high school and college fields.
“We could tell that he had a strong leg when we started practicing,” Jersild said. “We’ve worked with him on his placement (of the punts) and he’s improved that. He certainly did a good job in the first game. I hope he keeps it up.”
Kozlik’s success Saturday puts him at the top of the RMAC punting stats and ninth nationally in NCAA II.